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Fast Talk: GE's $500 Million Springboard

Dan Henson

VP And Chief Marketing Officer, General Electric
Fairfield, Connecticut

Dan Henson, 46 (pictured in New York's Chinatown), manages GE's sponsorship of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. (Cost estimates for a top sponsorship run as high as $80 million.) Henson is overseeing approximately 150 different projects, from preparing power systems for the Games to lighting the Water Cube, the Olympic swimming center.

"We hope to do well over half a billion dollars in business from the Beijing Olympics. But we are also looking at the Games to broaden our footprint in China overall. It's a chance to dialogue with the government. We are in discussions that range from expanding rural water purification across Chinese villages to improving rural health care and access to medical technology.

The Olympics have also inspired us to reassess our sales process. We have always been good at winning customers in a specific space—for example, our energy experts can sell to energy folks. But when governments spend billions of dollars on Olympic projects, they don't want to be sliced and diced by the same company. Our number-one revelation is that customers don't necessarily organize their buying behavior the way we structure our business. They want to know everything you can do to deliver on a stadium contract. That is a lesson we will use beyond China."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.